Anonymous, the 'hacktivist' collective named last week by NATO as a threat to its member governments, has issued an official response to a draft report prepared for the military alliance that claimed that the collective would be 'infiltrated' and its members 'persecuted'.
The group first hit the headlines after it launched a string of attacks against prominent anti-piracy groups under the banner 'Operation Payback'. The campaign soon broadened to include companies accused of obstructing whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in the wake of the 'Cablegate' leak of US diplomatic memos, bringing it to the attention of world governments.
In an open letter addressed to 'members of NATO', the loose-knit coalition sets out the basis for its own legitimacy - distancing itself from Wikileaks as a 'distinct entity', and condemning a claim made in the NATO report that secrecy is a 'necessary evil'.
What's noticeable about this and other recent communications from the group is a rising level of professionalism - paralleled by the increasingly effective nature of the collective's direct action.
While others might suggest that this points to a more organised and centralised command structure, the statement is emphatic about the group's distributed and democratic nature. The letter warns:
"Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent."
Anonymous goes on to treat NATO leaders to a lesson in its own brand of constitutional theory:
"It is Anonymous' position that when there is a conflict of interest between the government and the people, it is the people's will which must take priority," says the statement. "The only threat transparency poses to government is to threaten government's ability to act in a manner which the people would disagree with, without having to face democratic consequences and accountability for such behaviour.
"When a government is elected," continues the letter, "it is said to 'represent' the nation it governs. This essentially means that the actions of a government are not the actions of the people in government, but are actions taken on behalf of every citizen in that country. It is unacceptable to have a situation in which the people are, in many cases, totally and utterly unaware of what is being said and done on their behalf - behind closed doors."
Referring to NATO's condemnation of the group's recent attack on US defence contractor HBGary, the group employs a cheeky twist on the logic frequently employed by those in power to justify increasing surveillance - that if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear:
"If the government was doing nothing underhand or illegal, there would be nothing 'embarassing' about WikiLeaks revelations, nor would there have been any scandal emanating from HBGary. The resulting scandals were not a result of Anonymous' or Wikileaks' revelations, they were the result of the CONTENT of those revelations. And responsibility for that content can be laid solely at the doorstep of policymakers who, like any corrupt entity, naively believed that they were above the law and that they would not be caught.
"Our message is simple," the letter concludes. "Do not lie to the people and you won't have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won't have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won't have to worry about getting in trouble for it.
"Do not attempt to repair your two faces by concealing one of them. Instead, try having only one face - an honest, open and democratic one."